Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

Geocomposition in Public Rhetoric and Writing Pedagogy

Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

Geocomposition in Public Rhetoric and Writing Pedagogy

Article excerpt

Social interaction is enhanced by location awareness, and location awareness is enhanced by social interaction.

-Eric Gordon and Adriana de Souza e Silva, Net Locality

Writing moves (in) the world. As writing moves, it bumps into things, generating effects. Writing shapes and becomes a part of the environment. Writing composes connections: its agonism produces publics. In this way, the writing classroom becomes a public (or what Rosa Eberly calls a protopublic) wherein writing moves through space composing connections among people, places, and things.1 Such a classroom can likewise push students into locales beyond itself where student writing engages others and invites feedback and evaluation.

In this article, I describe and reflect upon a collaborative composition project designed to explore how writing and rhetoric move and how this movement shapes both rhetorical activity and the locations it inhabits. Woven throughout the body text are images, boxes containing text from course documents, sections containing student work, and pullouts sharing student reflections. Additionally, typeface shifts are used to signal content generated by students and their audiences. Permission was secured from students to share their work. Some paratextual elements are explicitly addressed, while others are leftto produce unexpected results in relation to the body text. I use such design elements and layouts to present the course not as complete but to trace the course as a concatenation of various texts (see Warner).

I was eager to have students work together on a project exploring public rhetoric. In addition to the desire to make such a project collaborative, I wanted the project to physically move students into and through the public places around them in order to explore these places as a function of rhetorical activity and to cultivate such activity in return. How do movement, and writing tied to movement and location, afford, constrain, or otherwise shape the ways we relate to and communicate with one another? How are public places, which are more than inert containers, composed through such rhetorical action? Likewise, how do different media, digital and analog, factor into this rhetorical activity? To investigate these questions, the collaborative project was built around geocaching.2 As "an outdoor recreational activity," geocaching participants use Global Positioning System (GPS) devices (e.g., handheld receivers and GPS-enabled smart phones) to "hide and seek containers, called 'geocaches' or 'caches'" ("geocaching").

For example, early in the semester a group of students found a small geocache in the form of a magnetized container attached to the underside of a metallic trash can. Using a handheld GPS device, they navigated to the geographical coordinates (expressed as N 38° 38.327 W 090° 13.870) listed for the geocache. In addition to these coordinates, students used the geocache's description, which included a hint to help locate the hidden container. This description was published on the official geocaching mobile application (and website) after having been approved by a volunteer within the geocaching community. Inside the geocache container was a paper log that students dated and signed. Again using the official geocaching mobile application on their GPS-enabled smart phone or handheld GPS device, they then logged their find electronically, letting other geocachers know what they think about the cache or its location-in this case, adjacent to the Fabulous Fox Theater in midtown Saint Louis. The students also took a picture of the view of the theater from the trash can, which they chose not to post as it gave away the location of the container. "In finding the geocache," the students collaboratively wrote in a short reflection, "the hunter is rewarded with a wide view of the Fox, helping them to get an idea of the surrounding buildings and streets, which provides another way to observe the environment. …

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